Photos by Collin Richie

The Creatives: Actor Hawn Tran

Hawn Tran

Hometown: Baton Rouge
Artistry: Actor, SAG-AFTRA
Online: @hawntran on Instagram,

Attempting to stand and deliver in his very first audition, Hawn Tran’s mouth couldn’t even form what would traditionally be defined as words. He could barely squeak out one regrettable sentence: “I’m sorry, I’m so nervous, I thought the casting director would be here.” 

And then, he heard the worst possible response: “I am the casting director.”

Driving away from that disaster, the Baton Rouge High School alum decided two things: He wasn’t going to let this one failure define him, and that an audition, like anything else, begins not when your first line is spoken, but as soon as you walk into the room.

“And here I am, 20 credits in,” Tran says. “I never gave up.”

Taking an intuitive and comprehensive approach—thanks to the LSU School of Theatre and a mentor in the form of Stranger Things’ Joe Chrest—Tran has landed a variety of roles, from shlocky homespun comedy-horror bonanza Santa Jaws, to Heist with Robert DeNiro and Dave Bautista, and Watchmen, HBO’s critically-acclaimed 2019 remix of the cult-favorite comic book series from the ’80s.

Hawn Tran

“Don’t let all this fool you,” Tran says, pawing at a few days’ worth of scruff. “When I shave this, I look 16. I still get cast as a teenager a lot.”

As a teenager himself, Tran was the teacher’s pet, class clown and black sheep all rolled into one. He played the lead role in The Hobbit and thrived in art class. He still feels like a child even now, perhaps because he gets to be creative every day. 

“I’m the youngest of five kids, and my parents were all about academics. Any extracurricular stuff was an afterthought,” he says. “There will be other voices in your life, but you have to trust yourself to seek your path no matter what atmosphere you grow up in. You create your own atmosphere.”

Though the pandemic slowed productions, auditions began ramping up through the spring, and Tran has seen an increased focus on diversity, a lack of which has negatively affected many Asian American actors in the past. Delving into romantic comedies, Tran is set to appear in Netflix’s Tall Girl sequel later this year. He’s equally flexible as a restaurateur— co-owning both Soji and Philly Dat Up. Hosting friends for dinner and cocktails is his “happy place,” he says—a warm, creative vibe he’s proud to have helped create at Soji. 

“Take the leap,” Tran says. “If you fall, you’re still there. If you succeed, then your passion becomes something else entirely. Don’t be afraid of mistakes; learn from them. It’s that simple.”